The final match of the season was a far from entertaining 1-1 draw in front of 7,810 supporters. Neither team had anything to play for and although they did try to make it a contest, the finishing from both sides was woeful. We failed to get our 100th league goal of the campaign but ended the season as champions. Mission accomplished.
The hosts changed their 3-5-2 system from their 2-2 draw with Vissel Kobe to a 4-4-2 formation, with Hozaki the only change, coming in for Ryosuke Tada.
Gamba made three changes, one of which I rather did not expect. The first was the forced change of Iwashita in for Nishino due to suspension, handing Iwashita his first appearance and start since injuring himself against Tokyo Verdy. Takuya Takei was given just his 7th appearance of the season as he started over the less-than-impressive Kenya Okazaki whilst Hiroyuki Abe was shockingly chosen ahead of Akihiro Sato, pushing Kurata to play with Usami up-front. Katsuhisa Inamori made the bench for the first time this season, assuring that ever player had at least made it into the 18 this season.
ThespaKusatsu Gunma XI – Kita, Koyanagi, Kweon, Inui, Hozaki, Aoki, Kato, Sakai, Kobayashi, Hirashige, Daniel Lovinho.
ThespaKusatsu Gunma Subs – Naito, Nakamura, Segawa, Sakurada, Yokoyama, Eder, Nozaki.
Gamba Osaka XI – Fujigaya, Kaji, Niwa, Iwashita, Fujiharu, Takei, Uchida, Futagawa, Kurata, Abe, Usami.
Gamba Osaka Subs – Kimura, Oh J.S., Inamori, Okazaki, Rocha, Kawanishi, Sato.
Not much happened in the first half really except for the fact that Hiroyuki Abe was really a waste of space and time, always passing poorly and picking the wrong options when he was on the ball. Both teams created chances but were guilty of profligacy. Gamba’s best chances came for Futagawa and Usami, but the former put his effort wide on the stretch from a couple of yards under pressure whilst Usami had a couple of long range efforts go wide of the post. Takei also did the same from 30 yards. Thespa hardly threatened simply because they got too excited in front of goal and our defence scrambled the ball away fairly easily.
Usami dazzled and sprinkled some life into the game in the 51st minute after he dribbled all the way across the penalty area without being tackled and with the ball hitting Kurata, he stole it off his toes and put the ball past Kita from 6 yards with the outside of his boot to make it 1-0 and Gamba’s 99th and final goal of the season.
Abe was taken off, but for Okazaki… whilst Kato was subbed for Eder for the hosts but Fujiharu should have made it 2-0 as he was put through on goal but was denied by Kita in their showdown. With a short amount of time to play, Hozaki was subbed for Segawa whilst Sato came on for Futagawa but only minutes later, we were back to level pegging as Fujigaya, on his final appearance, aptly parried a simple save right to substitute Eder from a Lovinho effort and the Brazilian made no mistake from 8 yards or so.
Aoki was taken off for Sakurada and there were 4 added minutes and Kawanishi got all of them in place of Uchida but Eder almost won the game for the hosts – he put his effort over the bar.
A lacklustre ending to a season well done – same goes for me and this match report I am afraid, but I think you and I have earned a rest from such long writings and readings.
Man of the Match:
Whilst the game was anything but a classic, Tatsuya Uchida stood out to me in this one. I think he was in control of the game for the most part and was the root of all our attacking play. He is one of my favourite players but he needs to be more assertive in his place if he is to succeed in J1 but he impressed me on Sunday. His passing was sharp and smooth on such a poor pitch/sand pit and he never looked out of place, taking over the Endo style of making the plays happen extremely well. I worry how much we will see of Tatsuya next year with reinforcements on their way but he will be a great asset if he continues to improve and be given the chance to do so.
Where it leaves both teams:
Regardless to say, both teams stayed in their respective 1st and 20th places. We ended up winning the league by 4 points (and 3 points short of our 90 points target) as Vissel won their final game 3-0 against Roasso Kumamoto. Thespa ended on 40 points and comfortably 9 points ahead of last-placed Gainare Tottori who enter the relegation play-off series against Kamatamare Sanuki.
Congratulations to Tokushima Vortis, JEF United and V-Varen Nagasaki who joined Kyoto Sanga in the play-offs. JEF snuck in thanks to a last-minute equaliser against Gainare Tottori ahead of the heartbroken Matsumoto Yamaga. Commiserations to them and Consadole Sapporo who did not get the win they needed to get their place.
Photo taken from Gamba Osaka’s Official Website. No copyright infringement intended. Original here.